Florence Washington, 97, dreams of meeting President Barack Obama. She says he inspired her to vote for the first time in her life during the 2008 election.
Thanks to Hampton University, Washington will be closer to meeting Obama come Mother’s Day, when he speaks at HU’s graduation ceremony.
HU first heard about Washington from WVEC-TV 13 reporter Joe Flanagan, who followed her through the presidential campaign and Obama’s inauguration. He contacted HU last week and told them about Washington’s dream.
Yuri Rodgers Milligan, the university’s spokeswoman, passed the message on to HU President William Harvey, who decided to give her two tickets from his personal reserve.
HU issued 1,000 public tickets for the event online last week, and they were gone within 10 minutes.
Milligan doesn’t know how many Harvey was allotted for personal use, she said.
“Well, he gave me two,” Washington said, with a broad smile at her home Thursday, “and I’m satisfied.”
Washington’s granddaughter, Gail Johnson, said her grandmother hounds her at least once about Obama, saying “I want to meet that man. When am I going to meet that man?”
Johnson said she considered taking her grandmother to the inauguration, but it was too cold out and too far away for wheelchair-bound Washington to handle. Any time Obama is in Hampton Roads, the problem is trying to get her near enough that she may actually be able to meet him in person, Johnson said.
The family is praying that Mother’s Day will be the moment Washington has been dreaming of.
The mother of 10, including two children who have died, Washington said she loves Obama because he is a young man who comes from a poor family, talks about his desire to help people whether they are black or white, and acts and talks like he truly believes in what he’s saying.
“Every time he gets on the news I love him more and more,” she said. “He’s one of my children. As long as I live he always will be on my mind. He does something to my heart. He tells the truth, and he uses ‘we,’ not ‘I’ about helping people.”
Hanging in her home is a plaque that displays a photo of Obama in front of the U.S. Capitol along with an engraved metal rectangle that contains his biography. It was a gift from Washington’s daughter Rosa Torres, Johnson said.
Washington smiles as she looks at the plaque, with a look of maternal pride beaming on her face.
“That’s a good picture of him,” she says.